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Trident Towards a Culture of Peace ?

Below is the speech that was to be given by Cora Weiss, President of the Hague Appeal for Peace, to the United Nations General Assembly on November 17, 1999. Unfortunately, at the last minute the UN informed us that the Hague Appeal would not be able to make the presentation. We are working with some ambassadors in trying to get the statement introduced as a document for circulation to the delegates.

Mr. President,
friends in the gallery,

The Hague Appeal for Peace, a global coalition of civil society activists from the fields of environment, human rights, religious communities, women's rights, youth and peace, is grateful for this opportunity to present to you, Mr. President, and to you, delegates of members states, the Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century. It is the democratically arrived at product of our enormously successful conference held in May in The Hague on the centennial of the first world peace conference, under the banner, "Time to Abolish War".

The end of the Decade of International Law must not signal the end of respect for international law. Rather, it should signal the permanent importance for heads of state, parliamentarians, diplomats and civil society to understand and rely on the force of law, and not the law of force.

This great body, the General Assembly, has to its credit the formulation of all the great values which should guide humanity in the search for peace and justice: the delegitimization of colonialism and apartheid, the rights of women, children, and indigenous people, the outlawing of torture, race, and gender discrimination, to name just a few. Is it not time to revert to and take seriously the cornerstone of your Charter, " save succeeding generations from the scourge of war."? People are fed up with fighting. Children are being slaughtered as soldiers of war. Civilians, not soldiers, are the primary victims of armed conflict. Land is being destroyed by mines and bombs. Refugees by the millions live an inhuman existence. All of these are immoral and unaffordable burdens on the international community.

The lethality of today's weapons makes reaching for guns and bombs too dangerous to contemplate, particularly given the ever present danger of the escalation to nuclear war. We are too smart, too experienced in early warning, too well prepared in conflict prevention, to resort to force. We have to muster the political will to use every conceivable creative non violent solution to conflict rather than resort to force, ever again.

The Hague Appeal for Peace was the only civil society organization, and together with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, officially recognized as a Friend of 99 by governments ( GA Draft resolution A/C.6/52/3 and A/RES/52/154) and which also celebrated the centenary of the l899 Hague Peace Conference. Our Hague Appeal for Peace conference has been called the largest peace conference ever held. The Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, addressed our meeting. Ten thousand people from over 100 countries heard the heads of UNESCO, UNICEF, and UNIFEM, as well as the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, the head of the Department of Disarmament Affairs, prime ministers, foreign ministers, ambassadors, Nobel laureates and many leaders and members of civil society organizations. This structure, which we call the new democratic diplomacy, consists of governments, intergovernmental organizations, and civil society working together, will be essential to achieve any important social changes in the future, since neither governments alone, nor civil society alone will be capable of sustaining them.

Mr. President, Your Excellencies,

We need each other. Organized civil society and governments must work together for the common good of humanity.

We must move from humanitarian laws which regulate war, to the right to peace, proclaimed in UN resolution 39/11 ( Nov. 12, l984), which should be a basis for the abolition of war as a legitimate institution.

Of the many recommendations of the Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice, which thanks to the Ambassador of Bangladesh is now an official UN document, (Ref A/54/98), we specially want to ask every member of this august body to consider integrating peace education into their educational curriculum, from pre kindergarten through secondary school, and beyond, as well as into the informal education of communities throughout our countries. For if we are to have peace in the next century, if we are to have a peaceful people, we must learn peace. We must learn alternatives to war. We must apply our resources and intelligence to eliminate the root causes of conflict. We need to close the gap between rich and poor; between the Islamic world and the rest of the great religions; between the different ways we treat men and women. We need to ensure gender equality. We need to ratify the statute calling for an International Criminal Court so that the days of impunity will be numbered. We need to implement the land mine ban treaty and stop the use of children as soldiers. We need to restrict the flow of small arms and light weapons and severely reduce the arms trade. We need to totally and completely abolish nuclear weapons as required by Article VI of the NPT and the Advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.

We ask that you seriously consider the 50 steps to peace and justice outlined in our Agenda and forward this document to your respective governments for implementation. We welcome every member state in this task. We are prepared to work together with you. We ask this of you, and we make this offer to you, for the sake of our children and our children's children. They deserve a safer world without war.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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